If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the Canadian Rockies, there’s no better way than with a Rocky Mountaineer train journey. With three unique rail routes connecting the cosmopolitan Pacific city of Vancouver in British Columbia to the Alberta mountain towns of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise, it’s easy to combine your train journey with time both exploring the national parks, and enjoying city dining and sightseeing.
Banff and Lake Louise, the Canadian Rockies destinations on the two-day First Passage to the West rail route, both sit within Banff National Park. Established as Canada’s very first national park back in 1885, the park offers soaring peaks, glacier-fed lakes and plenty of wildlife. The natural highlights in the park are endless: from the wild beauty of cruising on Lake Minnewanka, to witnessing canyons and waterfalls along the Bow Valley Parkway, and relaxing in the restorative waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs.
In the shadow of the imposing Mount Rundle, the town of Banff is the larger of the two towns within the park, with a renowned arts community centered around the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for a view of six mountain ranges, the Bow Valley and the town itself. Down below, Banff’s main street is also home to a diverse culinary culture, with great restaurants to fuel your adventures, as well as a brewery and local distillery.
The hamlet of Lake Louise, just a 40-minute drive north of Banff, sits on the edge of its namesake, a stunning lake with the Victoria Glacier reflected in its turquoise waters. Paddling this calm lake is top of the list for many visitors — rent a kayak or canoe at the boathouse, or join a tour. Along with the tranquil scenery, the legendary afternoon tea at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is an iconic experience.
Jasper, a three-hour drive north via the Icefields Parkway — one of the world’s most scenic drives — is the Canadian Rockies destination on both the two-day Journey through the Clouds rail route, and the three-day Rainforest to Gold Rush route. The park is known for its outstanding outdoor adventure opportunities, from wildlife watching to hiking the extensive trail network. Once the sun goes down, heavenly experiences await – Jasper National Park is Canada’s second largest dark sky preserve, enticing you to step out to see the mesmerizing blanket of stars above. The friendly town of Jasper will charm you with its collection of locally-owned cafes and restaurants, and its resident elk population that can appear around just about any corner.
Be sure to include some time to explore Vancouver, Rocky Mountaineer’s western departure or arrival station for all rail routes. Get your bearings by heading up 28 storeys to see the view from the Vancouver Lookout, before experiencing the city’s walkable neighborhoods, bustling shopping districts and markets, and inspiring galleries and museums, before sitting down for your own taste of Vancouver’s exciting restaurant scene.
In addition to destinations at either the end of each route, all three rail routes include overnight stops along the journey. Rocky Mountaineer’s two-day routes, First Passage to the West and Journey through the Clouds, include an evening in Kamloops, a laidback riverside city with great farm-to-table restaurants, local pubs and serene parks for stretching your legs. Guests traveling on the Rainforest to Gold Rush rail route spend a night in Quesnel, a historic gold mining town in British Columbia’s interior, and in Whistler. Whistler boasts four championship golf courses, a walkable alpine village filled with designer shopping and delicious restaurants, and plenty of pampering spas. Or get adventurous and zipline, cycle around the lakes, hike the trails, or take in the view from the gondola running between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.